There’s barely a dead rubber in sight as we enter the final round of the regular season with a host of sides APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Sydney FC, Sydney United 58, Rockdale City Suns and Hakoah Sydney City East all trying to secure a position in the top five.
Match of the Round
Sutherland Sharks v Sydney Olympic, Sunday 1.00pm at Seymour Shaw
Newly crowned 2017 Premiers Sutherland will prepare for the finals series with a home fixture against Sydney Olympic at Seymour Shaw on Sunday.
The Sharks finally made their premiership win official with a 1-0 victory over Parramatta last weekend and will no doubt look to celebrate their league superiority when they welcome the Blues to the Shire.
Nick Dimovski’s side have led the competition outright since round one on the back consistently excellent performances and boast the best defensive and attacking records in the league.
Visitors Olympic resembled a side of top-five quality for two thirds of the campaign but have failed to win a match since their round 15 triumph over Parramatta and have slipped down to ninth position on the ladder.
They’ll want to bid a disappointing season farewell and remind the competition of their quality against the league benchmark.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Manly United, 1.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East need to beat Manly United and hope results elsewhere go their way when they host the 2016 premiers at Hensley Athletic Field on Sunday.
Paul Hubbard’s side currently lie seventh in the ladder on 32 points and can only hope to squeeze into the top five should Sydney United 58 lose at home to Blacktown City and Rockdale City Suns fail to defeat APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Hakoah could also snatch a position in the five should Sydney FC fall to Wollongong alongside a Sydney United 58 loss / if Rockdale fail to beat APIA Leichhardt.
The Waratah Cup champions will fancy their chances at taking maximum points against Manly having finished the campaign with back to back victories. Forward Connor Eldridge might have one eye on the golden boot standings with the Hakoah frontman (14) narrowly trailing Blacktown’s Mason Ireland and APIA Leichhardt’s Aedon Kyra (15).
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Rockdale City Suns, 1.00pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers host Rockdale City Suns at Lambert Park in the weekend’s pivotal fixture in regards to the shaping of the top five.
Both sides must avoid a defeat at all costs – a loss for third-placed APIA will see the visitors overtake Franco Consentino’s side on the ladder and the Tigers will fall out of the finals completely should Sydney FC and Sydney United 58 also win.
The maths is far simpler for Rockdale who will scrape a position in the top five should they continue their excellent run of late season form and beat the Tigers at Lambert Park. James Temelkovski has spurred the visitors to seven wins in their last nine and has contributed a remarkable eight goals in his last four appearances.
Although APIA may have more to lose the Tigers have struck a fine run of results in recent matches and appeared near their best in last Sunday’s demolition of Blacktown City. If dynamic pairing Aedon Kyra and Jordan Morfitis continue their outstanding seasons the writing may be on the wall for Rockdale who will need to muster a strong defensive performance in order to play finals football.
Parramatta v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 1.00pm at Melita Stadium
Parramatta will be looking to avoid a 16th consecutive defeat when Bonnyrigg White Eagles arrive at Melita Stadium for one of the few dead rubbers awaiting this Sunday.
The Eagles put in one of their best displays of the campaign in round 21’s gallant 1-0 defeat to premiers Sutherland and despite their position Parramatta will be hell bent on snapping their losing streak on the last day of the season.
Playing Bonnyrigg may prove to be a stroke of fortune for the Melita Stadium outfit given that the White Eagles are unable to claim a finals position despite being on 32 competition points – level with Hakoah Sydney City East. Hamish Brown’s side experienced an awful start to the season which has ultimately come back to haunt the side who would need to rack up a cricket score to overturn their current goal difference of -22.
Sydney United 58 v Blacktown City, 1.00pm at Edensor Park
Sydney United 58 have won five matches in a row but will likely need to make it six against Blacktown City to confirm their participation in the finals series.
The Reds have recovered excellently from a mid-season slump and a significantly bolstered squad makes United 58 championship dark horses, a label that will only intensify should they pass their Blacktown challenge on Sunday.
John Carnevale’s visitors have tailed off towards the end of the campaign and are now winless in three matches following a 4-1 hammering to APIA Leichhardt last Sunday. City could slide to as low as fifth with a loss and simply cannot afford to be complacent again which makes this fixture a hugely enticing one.
Wollongong Wolves v Sydney FC, 1.00pm at WIN Stadium
Sydney FC will need to beat Wollongong Wolves to assure themselves a spot in the finals when the two sides meet at WIN Stadium.
The Sky Blues have had their claim as title contenders fly under the radar all season but back to back losses to Sutherland and Bonnyrigg has seen the side slip into fourth position ahead of the final round of the campaign.
Luckily for Sydney opponents Wollongong have lost five on the bounce and have failed to score in their last four matches and will need to pull together their strongest cameo of the season to deny the Sky Blues a spot in the finals.
-By Jacob Windon